School District 227 to hire law firm to probe brawl
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org October 8, 2013 10:54PM
Richton Park resident Tracye Mingo talks to the School District 227 board Tuesday at Rich South High School. | Casey Toner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:26AM
The Rich Township High School District 227 Board agreed during a special meeting Tuesday night to hire a law firm to look into the brawl that resulted in criminal charges filed against 16 students.
The board said it would review proposals from law firms during a meeting on Thursday, although it did not say when or where.
The fight broke out Sept. 30 at Rich South High School after Rich Central High School’s students were bused to the school following a bomb threat at Central earlier in the day. Once the students arrived, students were taken out of the building because of a fire alarm and the fighting began.
Ten students were charged with mob action, a felony. Of those, only Crystal Gholson, 17, of Country Club Hills, was charged as an adult, police said. Two Rich Central boys, ages 14 and 15, were charged in connection with the bomb threat.
Three girls were injured when they were trampled while leaving the school and were taken to a hospital, police said, and a Rich South teacher and a Richton Park police officer also were treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
“The incident of Sept. 30 is deeply regrettable that it ever happened in this district,” board member Emmanuel Imoukhuede. “We need to look back and say, ‘Look, some kids could have been killed. Some adults could have been killed.’ ”
During the special meeting, the District 227 board members took turns sniping at each other and cutting each other off while discussing possible private investigators, including former Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Stuttley, who attended the meeting.
The board’s demeanor caught the ire of the packed crowd, who criticized the board’s performance during the participation portion of the meeting.
“You sit there and you sit on your high horses,” said Rich Central alumnus Anthony Thoms, who said he was saving money to send his kids to Marian Catholic High School. “It’s not about you, you and you. It’s about all of our children. These are our children.”
Kim Jones, the District 227 teachers union president, said before the meeting that district teachers did not ride in the buses with the Central students when they were being transported to South.
Jones said the district never informed the teachers to ride along in the buses and so once the teachers learned where the students were headed, they hopped in their cars and drove to South, where they helped unload the students off the buses and into the gym.
“We did not have an idea that the students were bused to Rich South until the buses were gone,” Jones said. “There was no clear communication.”
Olympia Fields Police Chief John Krull said it was unfortunate the district bused the Central students to South. At the time of the bomb threat, Krull said the Central students were secure on the football field, which he said was “far enough” from the fake bomb.
“Were the kids in any danger?” Krull said. “Absolutely not. ... We weren’t talking about a 20-megaton bomb filled with fertilizer.”
Krull said that he was unaware of the details of a meeting that took place this summer between Supt. Doris Langon and local police chiefs concerning the school district’s emergency plan because his deputy chief attended the meeting. Langon previously told the SouthtownStar that she had discussed with the other police chiefs a plan to evacuate of students in case of emergency.
“We brainstormed about where could the students go that could fit in one place,” Langon said. “The decision was made that we would send students to another high school and we would notify the police when we were moving them.”
Krull said a sergeant notified SouthCom — the local 911 dispatch center serving Richton Park, Park Forest, Matteson and Olympia Fields — that the students were being bused from Central to South.
“Where it goes from SouthCom to Richton Park, I have no control over,” Krull said.
Richton Park Police Chief Elvia Williams previously said she only knew of the transport only after the melee broke out. If she had known about the busing plan, she would’ve advised District 227 officials against it, she said.